Mont-Tremblant, Canada – If there is one thing I learned from my 28 hours here in the frozen north, it’s that -40 degrees Celsius is the same as -40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Though our group did not see that number on the digital thermometers of our vehicles, we got very close. But that was the point. Driving, braking and learning to control a vehicle when on snow and ice.
Lots of ice. So hello, Montreal.
Nissan invited a small group of auto journalists and enthusiasts from across the U.S. to test the latest technology on its all-wheel drive (AWD) versions of its 2019 Altima sedan and Murano CUV. The winding, wintry roads here in early March proved to be the perfect proving ground for these tasks that seem simple in normal weather.
The Altima is the first AWD sedan that Nissan has sold in the U.S. market. This affordable ride starts at $23,900 and has several configurations scaling up to the Platinum version at $31,930.
With gas mileage at 26/36/30 mpg, Nissan says it’s the most fuel efficient AWD in its class.
We weren’t too concerned about fuel efficiency on this particular venture as we kept the speedometer in check most of the time due to the snow-packed roads around this beautiful mountain village. But our destination, Circuit Mecaglisse, had more than white fluff waiting for us.
This famed, looped driving track has been groomed since November to pack 8-12 inches of solid ice on top of its paved curves and straightaways. Nissan figured there was no better place to than bring unskilled winter drivers like us there and let us have our way for a few hours.
Alas, we did have professional drivers in our passenger seats giving us detailed instruction on when to brake, hit the gas and start a controlled turn.
The Altima handled the icy track with very little sliding and taking off from a stop was not an issue. There’s an initial 50-50 split front-rear power before the drive shifts to 70/30 when road conditions become slick. When the ground is nicely thawed the car rolls along in front-wheel drive mode.
This sixth-generation Altima has a 2.5-litre engine and boasts 182 hp – a bit higher than the previous model. The AWD is pretty techy but Nissan’s ProPilot Assist continues to wow me. This driving aid, found on several of the company’s other vehicles, offers semi-autonomous acceleration, braking and steering.
The heated seats and steering wheel were a bonus and the inside is quite spacious. An 8” nav/entertainment screen in the center of the dashboard was easy to read. The other displays and readouts were intuitive.
The look is sharp and sleek with LED lights all around and a floating roof. I’d call it stylish especially for a sedan – a shrinking segment that many people think has had its time.
I doubt I will personally need the driving skills nor the new technology in the AWD Altima on a daily basis as my home base of Texas keeps the winter weather in check. But should I one day move to a cooler climate where I have to learn how to shovel my driveway, I could totally see an Altima backing out of garage.